Archant furloughs 'small number' of staff as local publishers hit by pandemic

Archant furloughs 'small number' of staff as local publishers hit by pandemic

Archant is putting a “small number” of staff on furlough, following in the footsteps of rival publishers Newsquest and JPI Media, in a bid to cut costs during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The local news publisher said in an email to staff this week that furloughed staff would be those whose work had “disappeared” or had been “radically reduced” by the crisis.

It did not confirm what departments would be affected, but other publishers have furloughed sales staff, sports journalists and photographers.

Archant also told staff it could not rule out the number of furloughed staff being increased at a later date, but added: “The reality is we still require the majority of people to keep the business operating.”

Chief people and transformation officer Dee Willmott wrote that although “revenues have been affected across our business… there are lots of extremely positive stories that come through each and every day”.

She referred to an internal company survey earlier this week that showed “many hundreds of you talked about the amazing community spirit that has developed across Archant over the past few weeks”.

“It’s vital everyone does all they can to keep up this momentum.”

Staff going onto furlough will do so starting on Monday for an initial period of four weeks, receiving 80 per cent of their basic salary.

The Government’s scheme is capped at £2,500 per month, per person, but Archant has pledged to pay the difference so everyone on a leave of absence will receive 80 per cent of their salary no matter how much it is. Newsquest has done the same.

Archant also said no-one’s salary will go below £18,000 per year.

Earlier this week Archant told staff it was raising all trainee reporter salaries to £18,000 from 1 April, ending a disparity which saw those based at its Norwich headquarters (pictured) paid more than those in London.

The publisher also launched a campaign to ask readers for voluntary contributions towards the cost of its local journalism, saying it was something it needed to do “to stay in the game”.

Newsquest has furloughed about ten per cent of its 650 staff, mostly in advertising, while JPI Media is putting 350 employees on furlough including about 60 journalists.

Georgina Morris, lead rep for JPI Media’s National Union of Journalists group chapel, said today that the union is concerned for the “wellbeing and financial security” of its members and is working to support the hardest hit.

“With the serious financial pressures facing the regional media and everything that’s happened with our own employer in recent years, it feels like we’re always braced for the possibility of job cuts or pay freezes,” she said.

“The announcement by Newsquest about putting staff on furlough and cutting pay was the first alarm bell for us though as we tend to find that where one publisher goes, the others soon follow.

“Seeing colleagues elsewhere being furloughed has done nothing to lessen the upset felt by us all on Wednesday when the company briefings were made.

“There’s been panic for those being furloughed in particular as the initial news sinks in and we’re all still trying to understand the finer details and what this means.

“It’s certainly heightened the fears that everyone already held about the prospect of redundancies further down the line.”

Other publishers confirmed to have furloughed staff so far include PA Media, City AM and the Evening Standard.

Read all Press Gazette’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and the news industry here.

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5 thoughts on “Archant furloughs 'small number' of staff as local publishers hit by pandemic”

  1. The furloughing of non essential staff ought to be a pointer going forwards that maybe, just maybe, Archant are carrying positions that can no longer be justified.
    When things were good, the economy buoyant, papers sold in their tens of thousands and Archant had few if any real competitors,managing staff and handling the business warranted multi levels of mangers. Now things have changed and we will never see those times again it makes sound economical sense to reshape the business accordingly and that means no longer carrying non essential, unproductive staff all drawing sizeable salaries.

    It’s harsh but necessary if publishers such as Archant are to exist in a modern media environment and not suffer further losses which could mean job losses and closures

  2. Any position being furloughed has to be a sign of that particular job having become unnecessary to the business and no longer needed going forward.
    Its harsh but when publishers are struggling and feel the need to ask the public to support them with donations to fund journalism then it’s hard to justify continuing with non essential or unprofitable jobs carrying high financial outgoings for minimal return any longer.

    Independent local publishers have built their business models by identifying what jobs are needed to run the business and have staffed up accordingly.Most run flat operational structures where personnel work alongside the owner/operator and manage themselves by working to basic clear cut business objectives.
    Many employ trusted and experienced ex regional press journalists and advertising staff who need little supervision and can concentrate on getting the job done efficiently and effectively.
    Compare that to groups such as Archant which still operate with hierarchies hardly changed from when they had large departments and monopolies and operated with multi layers of managerial positions and you can see why any fluctuations in the economy or further downturns in business affect them badly.
    Furloughing may prove to be the pause button needed to allow employers time to analyse job roles and decide which positions are necessary and which are no longer required. Cutting out non essential jobs now could safeguard further cuts to more essential jobs in the future.

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